Since his start in the food industry, Ian Boden’s motto has been to under-promise and over-deliver. Step inside his no-frills restaurant, The Shack, and you’ll understand how this goal has turned into reality in small-town Staunton, Virginia. Housed in an actual shack, this unexpected eatery has become one of the most talked-about spots throughout the South—and for good reason. We sat down with Ian to get the low-down on his restaurant and his favorite fall flavors. Plus, we snagged some helpful tips for the home cook. Read on for the interview.
What was your inspiration for The Shack?
The Shack itself (and our logo) is modeled after my wife’s Grandma Tissy’s house. She was the matriarch of the family, and this is my way of connecting with my wife and her family. This restaurant really is in homage to her.
How does your bare-bones venue play into the dining experience?
From the plates you’re eating on, to the silverware, to the floors, to the walls, to the music we’re playing, it all implies that it’s casual, it’s friendly, it’s open, it’s warm. And that’s it. The focus isn’t on the environment, it’s on the food—just like it should be.
You host a Sunday Supper each week.
Tell us about that.
It’s a way to introduce ourselves to the community with a less expensive, modified family-style meal.
We serve up things like cornbread with sorghum butter, and biscuits and jam.
It’s no-fuss, really well-prepared, simple
food that everyone wants to eat.
What will you be cooking this fall?
I love taking the fall greens, pumpkins, and gourds, and pushing them together with end-of-the-summer produce, as well as
the last of our pickles and preserves from spring. It’s a really cool cross section.
Don’t be scared of salt. People ask all the time why our food is good and most of the time it’s because it has been seasoned properly. The first time I cooked for my wife, she saw me season a piece of red meat and freaked out because she thought it was going to be too salty—but that’s just what it takes. People need to understand that you need to season your food well, and you need to taste it as you go.
Also, make sure you have a good pan—cast iron or black steel. We cook almost everything in the restaurant in black steel and cast iron pans. We use Butter Pat cast-iron pans and Blanc Creatives pans, which are hand-forged black steel pans. We cook about 90% of our food in those.
For more on Ian and The Shack, visit their website at theshackva.com.